The accounting profession, like so many others, has faced financial pressures since the end of 2008.
Downward pressures on revenue have squeezed the incomes of young partners who may still be on the hook for the buy-in responsibility. Partners in their late 50s are beginning to become anxious about how much their share of the partnership may be worth when they hit retirement. CPAs - consummate financial professionals themselves - may want to turn to other professionals in managing their own finances.
TRAIT 1: CONSULTATIVE ATTITUDE
Being able to work well with other partners and clients, and doing so efficiently, is an important weapon in the accounting partner's arsenal. Partners know that they cannot shoulder the entire work burden themselves, and rely on other partners. as well as their clients. Frequently, they team up with other partners to gain insight into different aspects of a client's needs. The most successful cross-selling of consulting work comes from lead tax partners who can successfully identify potential issues, and then involve a partner who specializes in the type of work. This yields a stronger relationship between partners, clients who are more willing to take on additional work, and increased revenue.
This translates nicely into a positive investment ethos. Many public accounting partners want to work consultatively when investing. They do not like to simply invest and forget, but rather want to engage in dialogues with their investment advisor, and know that their needs are being met. This is how wealth managers work: An investment plan is not a finished product but an ongoing process.
TRAIT 2: COLLABORATIVE APPROACH
In corporate engagements, attorneys, for example, have become indispensable. Every partner, at some point in their career, has worked with an attorney or, more likely, a team of attorneys. Tax law and Sarbanes-Oxley have intertwined attorneys and accountants such that they often work together in solving common client problems. Valuation experts also figure prominently as well.
Accountants must work with all of these professionals regularly to create an efficient, effective and impactful client experience. It is therefore not surprising that accounting partners maintain an extensive list of contacts outside of accounting for referring clients.
When public accounting partners choose to invest, they want to make sure they are working with competent professionals who excel in their area of expertise. Oftentimes, partners are inclined to associate with investment advisors who are recommended to them by their co-partners. A public accounting partner knows that working with a high-quality advisor can make all the difference in a successful, long-term experience. Wealth managers will assemble a team of experts to help CPAs with their needs - CPAs will find themselves working in a collaborative environment, just as they do in their offices.
TRAIT 3: INFORMED DECISIONS
With the velocity of information that exists today, it is nothing short of miraculous that public accounting partners are able to keep up to speed with the ever-changing landscapes in audit and tax.
Being informed is crucial in the accounting profession. Having a finger on the pulse of new information not only impacts the technical aspects of client work, but also helps focus on the needs of the client.
Partners must be well-versed in all of the potential issues that face a client. Their inquisitive nature shows up in the way public accounting partners choose to invest, as well. Fortunately, wealth managers are aligned with this way of thinking, providing all the necessary information to help CPAs make informed decisions.
TRAIT 4: DELEGATING EFFECTIVELY
The key for long-term success in the accounting profession is being able to delegate effectively. Public accounting partners' time is in high demand, and accordingly, they are forced to find methods of leveraging their client load. Even as seniors they begin to hone the skill of using staff as a way to make the use of their time more efficient.
Delegation also allows partners to increase profit margins, by freeing them to spend their time on key activities only they can do, such as bringing new clients into the firm. CPAs will find that they are able to delegate to their wealth managers, as well. While the client is always in control, day-to-day operations and research are completed by the wealth manager. The client is further encouraged to delegate responsibility for research to the outside experts the manager has assembled.
TRAIT 5: A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Successful public accounting partners know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, whether the work involves a tax return or an audit engagement. There is always room to step back from the minutia and take a bird's-eye-view approach. Being able to look at the end product holistically acts as a sanity check on complicated work that typically involves multiple moving parts. Clients and subordinates alike rely upon the partner to ensure that each piece makes sense within the entire framework of the product.
Public accounting partners also realize that they must be engaged on a holistic level in their own lives. Working with wealth managers, they should take a complete approach to their wealth. Not only are they concerned about their investments, but they also want to work with top professionals in the estate- and insurance-planning worlds. Partners understand that their lives are complicated, and each portion of their plan must make sense within the context of the whole.
CALL TO ACTION
It is important for senior partners to contact a wealth manager who can bring a consultative process to the table, and work collaboratively with other professionals.
While many investment advisors call themselves wealth managers, an investor needs to be aware that there is a distinction between the two. A wealth manager will have processes in place to address not only a potential client's assets, but their true wealth: helping to protect their assets from taxation, passing the assets on to the next generation, making sure that assets are not unjustly taken, and addressing philanthropic inclinations.
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